The 90-day bill – us and them

-Jared Phillips

Continuing with the New Zealand employers’ labour-flexibilisation drive, Prime Minister John Key has announced the introduction of a 90-day probationary employment bill that will allow new workers to be sacked without appeal, and it will come into force in March 2009.

What it means for workers

Those whose conditions will be directly attacked are the employees who are or will be in their first 90 days of employment at firms employing less than 20 people.

Slightly more than 30% of employees are employed in firms with less than 20 employees. The Council of Trade Unions has observed that of all employees, approximately 100,000 are in the first 90 days of employment, with a small employer, at any one time.

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Declare your job a 90-day free zone!

 

National plans to introduce a sacking bill before Christmas. That would mean that employers with fewer than 20 staff could sack in the first 90 days of employment without legal recrimination.

National has its 90-day sacking bill on a list of legislation it wants passed in the next 100 days.

This bill is an overt attack on workers’ rights. Workers in small job sites currently enjoy few rights as they are mostly not unionised and the employers consequently have a great deal of power.

The CTU is responding with a petition and looking at putting adverts in the major newspapers. This falls well short of what is needed.

Direct action by workers is the way to respond to this attack.
Unite union is taking the lead by saying that any worker can join Unite for $2 a week and get phone advice and back up where needed. If workers are wrongly sacked in the 90 day period Unite will organise pickets in defence of these people. Any employer who sacks under this legislation could find themselves confronted by a rowdy picket line and Unite’s 20 foot rat.

Employers plainly want to put the pressure on workers; it’s time to push back.

 rat-at-skycity-0111

Go Wellington versus environmental justice

green

Ian Anderson

The conduct of Go Wellington demonstrates the struggle between capitalism and environmental justice.

 Environmental justice refers not only to environmental impact, but the full participation of those affected. ‘Sustainability’ is the current buzzword amongst politicians, generally meaning the capacity of capitalist practices to dodge points-of-no-return for environmental reproduction. However, working people are disproportionately affected both by environmental degradation and capitalist solutions; as phrased by Karl Marx, “Capitalist production [works] by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”

Public transport is often touted as a solution, with companies such as Go Wellington subsidised by local government. This approach is insufficient, primarily serving capitalist ends. Resources must be managed in service of human and environmental need, rather than profit.

 One line currently popular amongst politicians goes, ‘You don’t have to choose between sustainability and profit.’ In fact, green practices can increase profit; avoiding waste cuts costs, and there are enormous PR advantages to going green.

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How to stop National’s threat

– Don Franks

Under the guise of “giving young, inexperienced people or new immigrants a better chance at a job”, National is proposing a new restriction on workers.

“We will introduce a 90-day trial period for new staff, by agreement between the employer and employee, in businesses with fewer than 20 people,” National party leader John Key announced in a 24 July press release.

During this 90-day trial period, either party may terminate the employment relationship for performance without a personal grievance claim being brought.

National’s proposal should be rejected by all workers and fair-minded people.

The personal grievance procedure is no fail-safe protection against unfair dismissal, but it does provide a narrow avenue for workers to contest injustice. National’s election promise to deny new staff access to their day in court would move the bar even further in the employer’s favour.

National’s industrial proposals have been roundly condemned by trade unionists. NZ Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says: “Cuts in workers’ rights and entitlements and privatisation are all this party has to offer to date.”

She says National’s industrial policy “really will clarify for workers and their families which parties have their interests at stake”, concluding that “instead of supporting the current approach balancing employer and employee interests, [National] is trying to drag us backwards”.

Helen Kelly is quite right to condemn National’s anti-worker 90-day trial. But she ignores the fact that National promises to retain significant current labour laws which she supports, and will:

*continue to allow union access to workplaces with an employer’s consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld

*continue to support the social partnership with Business NZ and the CTU to work together on issues of mutual interest

*retain the Mediation Service.

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Who got the new minimum wage rise?

– Jared Phillips

The Council of Trade Unions and various individual unions have put out statements regarding the April 1 2008 minimum wage rise to $12 and the abolition of youth rates for most young workers.

CTU secretary Carol Beaumont said:

Twelve dollars an hour is a commitment that this Labour-led government made with the Greens and New Zealand First, and it has now fully delivered on it. And with the abolition of youth rates from April 1 also, 16- and 17-year-olds will see their minimum wage rise from $9 to $12 after 200 hours or 3 months, whichever is sooner.

Unite union led the campaign for these changes. It was demanding $12 in 2005. This demand was also coupled with the sentiment ‘2008 is far too late’.

However, the recent increase to $12 is attributable to the large SupersizeMyPay campaign led by Unite, which picked up on wage discontent amongst low-paid workers and young workers.

The abolition of youth rates was even more clearly driven by Unite plus groups of young workers, adult workers, revolutionaries, leftists, and social democrats to the left of Labour. Unite hit the youth employers, Unite and students organised by radical youth hit the public, and then, with the NDU, Unite hit and manipulated the government. That is the history of the struggle against youth rates, which have yet to be finally eradicated.

This mass organising movement was the real force behind the most dramatic pack of successive minimum wage increases in decades. Unite is now successfully organising to get workers off minimum wage, and has just signed up more than 1000 new members in KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks stores.

Australian Labor Government looks to preserve most of Howard’s industrial reforms

In November last year the Australian Labor Party was elected to office on a tidal wave of opposition to the previous Howard government’s industrial reforms, which had threatened to scrap award conditions as well as undermine collective bargaining rights.

However, just like the New Zealand Labour Government’s introduction of the Employment Relations Act shortly after their election in 1999, the ALP’s proposed new industrial legislation actually promises to change very little for workers, as the following report from the Socialist Party of Australia makes clear.

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